By Logan Patmon
A pandemic of epic proportions currently grips America. Millions are out of work, while millions more are sheltering at home. The Covid-19 pandemic is a health crisis that has turned into an economic crisis. However, many Americans have failed to realize that there has been another pandemic raging in America since its founding over 244 years. Millions of Americans have contracted the highly contagious virus; however, similar to Covid-19, only some suffer from symptoms. This pandemic has led to economic and health issues and even death for many Americans. The virus is racism, many are infected, and those who suffer symptoms are people of color.
One of the latest victims whose life was stolen by the 244-year old virus is Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man. He was shot by two vigilantes while jogging because he “looked like someone who had committed a crime.”
The testing and treatment for the virus is non-existent. The judicial system, which should at least offer retribution, has proven incapable of helping at worst and unwilling to help at best. Over the past 244 years, many civil rights and anti-discrimination laws have been passed. However, they have done little to slow the spread of the virus. Over 244 years ago, black men were killed for looking at the wrong women, saying the wrong thing, or just existing in the wrong space. Today, 244 years later, black men are subjected to modern-day lynching for just exercising outside.
The 244-year pandemic, like Covid-19, is not just one thing. In addition to the extrajudicial killings and harassment, the virus of racism has other severe effects. The racial wealth gap, high maternal mortality rates, and the high incarceration rates of African American men can all be attributed to the 244-year pandemic. It is an economic crisis, a health crisis, and a crisis in policing and policies for which there is no vaccine.
What makes this pandemic so harmful and fatal is that millions refuse to believe it exists. Millions refuse to acknowledge statistics, facts, and history. Racism, discrimination, and profiling often lives in the mind and cannot be easily seen. Similar to Covid-19, just because you cannot see it does not mean there are not severe physical manifestations that result.
Inevitability, there will be some who say that right now is not the time to “whine” about racial issues; that right now is the time for everyone to come together. To those people, I say that we are going through a terrible crisis, where social distancing and other measures need to be observed. However, there is never a convenient time or place to bring attention to racial issues in America. They cannot be addressed on the side of a football field, in music, in classrooms, or anywhere else. Covid-19 has feasted on the already existing racial pandemic and its consequences. Yet, there are still many who deny the 244-year pandemics existence.
Regrettably, there are no easy solutions that can be offered. Similar to Covid-19, finding a cure will be hard, requiring a significant investment, and a prolonged commitment that thus far America has been reluctant to undertake. However, there are a few steps that can be taken to mitigate the symptoms. First, widespread recognition that everyone in America is not the same. The concept of colorblindness and racial neutral laws has been tried and failed. Second, a nationwide review of policing in America needs to be carried out. Too often we focus on the individual officer who commits a wrongful act. This is important, but you cannot stop a pandemic by only going after those who have already succumb to the virus. You have to address those who are at risk, those who may be silent carriers, and those who deny the existence of the virus. Lastly, vigilantes who think they are judge, jury, and executioner need to be trialed for first degree murder expeditiously.
Right now, millions of Americans are struggling and out of work because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many want the American economy to reopen, and they have every right to want that. We have all seen how hard it is to fight a pandemic, but imagine how hard it is to fight two at the same time, one of which has been raging for 244 years. At some point there will be a vaccine or treatment for Covid-19, but what about America’s first pandemic?